Finding the Best Way to Teach English
When my daughter Ella was four years old, she began learning to play the violin with the Suzuki method, which teaches young children to play musical instrument before reading notation. Dr Suzuki called this ‘the language of music’. He did this by repeated home hearing of the portions of music to be studied and positive activities in class to teach the young hands how to play. And he also made sure the children received positive feedback so they felt successful.
I realised that this is actually how we should be teaching foreign languages: to very young children and by a way that imitated the manner in which they learn their mother tongue. It was clear to me that this had to be through repeated background hearing of language portions at home so that the brain would receive repeated hits and make the language part of its physiology, and by positive reinforcement by the teacher.
Initially, I assumed that someone must have already developed such a methodology for teaching English, but this wasn’t the case. So, in 1985 I started teaching young children ages 1 to 6 with the goal of finding testing my theory of how it was best for young to learn English as a foreign language.
To create the home background hearing that could be repeated, I created audio cassettes, which consisted of me plunking on the piano while singing, as well as making home recordings of poems and stories. It worked really well and the following year I had many more students and, because there was such great demand, I realised the need to train teachers in the methodology and materials. Clearly I also needed to create professional learning materials.
Right from the beginning, my true passion was for the very young ages, because I believe that if a child has a good foundation, it is for life. This foundation extends beyond the classroom. Early parent-child bonding and helping parents to understand their children’s full potential during the early years not only makes for good learning but gives the child a basis for success, joy and self-confidence that has a very real impact on their children’s development. At these early ages, up to the age of seven, the child’s brain is primed for learning. The right mental stimulation and physical activities create greater brain connectivity and in turn, more neural pathways. This prepares him or her to succeed.
Find out in part 2 how a fun and stress-free learning environment, based on support and positive reinforcement means that a child will believe in himself, learn easily and will have a foundation of confidence for life.